Summer Guide: Trek to Tucson

• Perched atop Mount Lemmon, northeast of Tucson, the small community of Summerhaven (from I-10, head east on Grant to Tanque Verde, then turn left on Catalina Highway; follow it to the Mount Lemmon Highway and watch for the signs) was devastated by wildfires in 2003. But it has rebounded with great success, thanks to the generosity of Tucson residents. Enjoy the significantly lower temperature (30-40 degrees cooler than Phoenix, on average) and the excellent hiking trails. Or if you're feeling less athletic, go to the Mt. Lemmon Cafe (open only Friday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 12976 N. Sabino Canyon Pkwy, 520-576-1234, to enjoy some of the tastiest pie in the area.

• Right next to the Pima County Legal Services building is a hip taco joint called Chileverde (20 N. Stone Ave., 520-792-8226). During the day, the Tucson legal elite meet there to eat carne asada and talk shop. But at night, Chileverde mutates into Centro, a stylish discotheque. The owners cleverly convert the alley behind the building into an ultramodern patio and dance floor. The Centro logo is projected high up the side of the legal services building, acting as a beacon for the nightlife crowd. Centro features both local and guest DJs, and a wide variety of electronic music. Leave those baggy pants at home; Centro is a classy place, and the dress code (collared shirts and slacks for men) is enforced.

• A longtime fixture on hip Fourth Avenue, Plush (340 E. Sixth St., 520-798-1298, is the perfect spot to catch Tucson bands as well as touring national acts. The bars at this intimate lounge are well stocked with beer and high-quality spirits. The place radiates a gentle, unpretentious lounge lizard vibe. There are free shows early in the week; ticket prices generally range from $5 to $8 for bigger acts, and most shows feature two or three bands. On any given night you might see the next Kings of Leon or White Stripes.

Downtown Tucson: Darn cool.
Jamie Peachey
Downtown Tucson: Darn cool.
Jamie Peachey

The Shelter (4155 E. Grant Rd., 520-326-1345) opened when Kennedy was president, and if you were to walk into this central Tucson bar today, you'd think he was still in the Oval Office. The walls of the Shelter are lined with JFK tchotchkes, from velvet paintings to conventional portraits to eerie plasticine bas-reliefs with embedded, glowing eyes. There's a pool table and a lengthy list of specialty drinks. Grab a booth, bring some friends, order an Alien Secretion (Malibu, melon liqueur, and pineapple juice) or a Tea Bag (Stoli strawberry, raspberry liqueur, cranberry juice, and fresh lime), and enjoy one of the Steve McQueen movies that play on the bar's TV.


Most people casually acquainted with Tucson know about Hotel Congress (311 E. Congress St., 520-622-8848,, but few know about Roadrunner Hostel (346 E. 12th St., 520-628-4709,, a bungalow for the budget-conscious located just off of Fifth Avenue, south of Congress. The Roadrunner is a converted private residence built at the turn of the 20th century. The walls outside are covered in murals and ceramic collages, provided by itinerant artists in exchange for free lodging. There's dorm lodging at $20 per night, and private rooms are just $40. The kitchen supplies free waffle breakfasts and enough coffee makers to support a traveling jam band, plus extended entourage. Located minutes from the Rialto Theater and Hotel Congress, it's the perfect layover spot for Valley dwellers who want to catch an evening show.

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